COVID-19 has dramatically changed the African safari industry. Nothing has looked the same since March, and while some things are getting back to normal, we’re not quite there yet. Botswana’s coronavirus pandemic response is still ongoing.
So, we thought we’d take a moment to let you know what’s happening in Botswana when it comes to coronavirus, how we’re doing at Brave Africa, and our plans/hopes/dreams for the future.
Botswana Coronavirus Updates
As of the end of August 2020, COVID-19 cases have not yet reached 1,000 people in Botswana. There are:
701 confirmed cases
202 active cases
493 recovered cases
To keep case numbers so low, Botswana’s borders have been shut down for months. Beyond travel for trade and work, there has been no movement across the borders either to/from South Africa, Namibia, Zambia, or Zimbabwe.
The Botswana government has also been quick to enforce lockdowns as needed to reduce the spread and to prevent outbreaks.
Mask wearing is strictly enforced when out in public with a very steep fine for violations.
Alcohol sales have also been suspended in order to discourage large group gatherings.
Botswana Coronavirus Travel Updates
As for travel to and from Botswana during the coronavirus pandemic, as we said, borders are still closed to all non-essential travel. There are currently no commercial international flights into or out of Botswana. However, the Botswana government is in talks with leaders from other countries to determine when and how to resume flights for tourism and beyond.
Brave Africa Coronavirus Updates
So, how is the Brave Africa team doing during Botswana’s coronavirus pandemic response? They are doing as well as can be expected.
At the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the Brave Africa leadership team took one simple idea to heart: if we cannot be there for each other, how can our guests expect us to be there for them? And thus, all of our choices for our staff have revolved around this idea moving forward.
Integrity is doing the right thing when it is hard to do the right thing. As we near the end of the fifth month of the country’s borders being closed to tourism travel and our fifth month of zero revenues, Brave Africa staff continue to receive income and a 30-day supply of foodstuffs. We believe that we are all in this together, and Brave Africa has not laid off or furloughed any staff due to the pandemic.
All of Brave Africa’s staff remain well and healthy. They check in with us regularly from wherever they happen to be riding out the pandemic. Most of our team have returned to their home villages to be with their families, while a few staff live in Maun.
For those in Maun, they have been coming to the office (voluntarily) to keep the vehicles, equipment, and office in top shape. They have also converted the yard around the office into a vegetable garden to supplement their groceries while we wait for tourism to reopen in Botswana.
The Brave Africa team garden at the office, where we planted rapeseed, tomatoes, coriander, parsley, green peppers, and chilies.
Botswana Nature 2020
The good news is that shutting down the borders does not change the majesty of Botswana’s wilderness. In fact, nature has put on a true show this year while tourists have not been able to visit.
After a few years of arid conditions and drought throughout the Okavango Delta, this year has resulted in spectacular floodwaters. For the first time in recent memory, the Thamalakane River, which passes through Maun (where almost every safari begins) is filled with water.
The Thamalakane River in Maun, Botswana, is filled with floodwaters.
Life-giving water in the Delta.
The return of this life-giving water, plus the absence of humans in the bush, has created an environment where wildlife and nature are both thriving. We fully believe that this could make the 2021 safari season a year to remember.
We look forward to getting back out there soon!
Hundreds of Elephant Deaths in Botswana
Unfortunately, we can’t talk about Botswana’s gorgeous wildlife without mentioning the death of elephants this year. Between May and July 2020, almost 400 elephants were found dead in Botswana.
It raised a lot of concern among conservationists worldwide and fears of poaching, poison, and more. The dead elephants were usually found close to watering holes in a very strange mass die-off that hadn’t been seen in years.
The question of what killed these elephants is still unanswered—although poaching, poisoning, and anthrax have been ruled out. But though the cause of death is still unknown, we are happy to report that no further elephants have been found dead in Botswana. Whatever happened seems to have stopped for now.
Conservationists and the Botswana government are keeping an eye on the situation, and we will update you as we have more information to share.
Botswana is home to more than 130,000 elephants—one-third of Africa’s entire population!
Planning Your Brave Africa Safari After Coronavirus
When animals haven’t seen humans in their environment for a while, they start to relax. They go back to behaviors and actions that they may have avoided when humans were around. This means that a 2021 safari could be more of an adventure than ever before. It could be like a safari of the past where nature is truly wild and untouched.
Before you start planning your 2021 African safari after Botswana’s coronavirus pandemic response, there are a few questions you should ask yourself:
There’s no beating around the bush, COVID-19 is severely impacting life as we know it around the world. Many of us are practicing social distancing, self-quarantine, and other extreme measures to end the spread. That’s why we feel that online safari content is so important right now to make up for the lack of coronavirus tourism.
Coronavirus Tourism and Small Business Impact
It is a scary time, particularly for the travel and tourism industry. Brave Africa is not immune to everything that’s going on around the world.
But as long as we stick together, listen to the advice of medical professionals, and do what is best for everyone, we can get through it stronger than ever.
Botswana Coronavirus Update – March 27, 2020
While Botswana (as of Friday, March 27, 2020) still has no confirmed cases of the virus, tourism has effectively shut down in the country.
According to the Government of Botswana in line with the Public Health Act 2013, all individuals from the following high-risk countries will not be allowed entry: China, Japan, South Korea, Iran, USA, UK, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and India. There’s also warning of an “imminent countrywide lock-down” to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic with soldiers watching all borders.
Already, almost all international travel has shut down, but there is good news. We will still be here when the coronavirus is defeated and life returns to normal (or the new normal), whether that’s in a few weeks or a few months.
Brave Africa’s Coronavirus Response: GREAT Online Safari Content
The Brave Africa team is in constant communication about how to handle the coronavirus crisis and what we can do to keep moving forward. As we wrote in our previous blog, we are allowing all current clients to postpone their booking up to 12 months with no penalties. And we’re honoring the same rate whether you rebook this year or wait until 2021.
But what about for everyone stuck at home, dreaming of being anywhere else?
We are going to be providing great content across our social media platforms and blog. If you can’t come to us for a safari, we’ll come to you on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.
Here’s a little about the type of online safari content you can expect to keep you entertained as you are quarantined
On Mondays, we’re going to start taking you on virtual safaris (#virtualsafari)! From the comfort of your home, you can journey with us into the Okavango Delta in Botswana to see the animals, hear the sounds of the bush, and experience the majesty of being on safari.
The goal is to let you get out of the house even just for a little while through your phone or computer screen. We want you to have something to look forward to every Monday for the coming weeks and months as we protect ourselves and each other. It’s the easiest way to enjoy some coronavirus tourism.
So, be sure to tune into our social media pages every Monday to check out the latest #virtualsafari video!
To help keep you entertained while you’re at home in self-quarantine, we’ve started sharing a fun puzzle every Wednesday on our Facebook and Twitter pages. This online puzzle takes one of our favorite pictures from safari and breaks it down into 48 puzzle pieces (or more) that you can then put together online.
It’s a great diversion for ten or so minutes in the middle of the week when we know you can really use it. If you really like these puzzles, we’ll keep them up and make them harder as we go! You can find our first African sunset puzzle here.
Then, on Fridays, we’re sharing pictures from our Brave Africa coloring book! We’re taking some of our favorite safari images and transforming them into black and white coloring pages that you can print out at home and transform into your own artwork.
We encourage you to go as crazy or as accurate as you want on the drawings. That’s why we’ll always upload the original photo along with the coloring book download, so you can decide what type of art you want to create. Is this fun online safari content, or what!?
Photos from the Bush
We know there’s a lot of doom and gloom in the world right now, so we promise to continue sharing beautiful, inspiring, and fun photos from the bush. Because we all need something to smile about during this time.
You might not be able to go on safari right now, or even in the next few weeks, (since COVID-19 tourism is not allowed) but the bush is always there, waiting for us to explore. Join us throughout the week as we share candid animal pictures taken by our guests and employees.
It is just one small way we hope our online safari content brightens up each of your days.
Sometimes the best way to get through an unpleasant time is to think about the future. Truthfully, we do not know when the coronavirus pandemic will end, and travel will return to normal. We hope it is only a few weeks or months from now, but it could be much longer than that.
No matter how long it takes, we do know that there will be light at the end of the tunnel. Whether it is this summer, fall, winter, or 2021, we will be able to travel and explore the world again. And we do not know about you, but we are definitely going to have cabin fever!
What better way to pass the days than to plan your future vacation? You do not have to make any commitments right now, we know things are too uncertain, but you can dream.
This is a great time to collect airline miles and credit card points so you can get a free flight to Africa later this year or next. It is also an excellent opportunity to begin budgeting and planning your dream vacation.
During these next few weeks, we will try to help you out with blogs and other content offering tips and advice on planning your dream safari vacation. It is never too early to get started. There is a lot you need to know and do to have the best trip possible, so we will be here to help.
Online Safari Content You Want
Last, but certainly not least, we would love feedback about what type of content you would like to see.
We know how negatively COVID-19 is affecting everything and its particularly strong impact on the travel industry is unlike anything we have ever seen before. So, we would like to know what online safari content you want to see.
Do you want:
More videos and images from the bush because they are a great distraction from the constant stream of bad news?
More information about what is going on in Botswana and how the coronavirus is impacting everything there?
Behind the scenes looks at what Brave Africa is doing to weather the coronavirus crisis?
Let us know!
We know this is a challenging time for everyone. The good news is that it also presents an incredible opportunity for all of us to put aside our differences and come together as a global community. We are all in this together, and the more we can do to support each other, the better.
Our thoughts are with those who are sick, have lost their jobs, or are otherwise struggling in the world as it is now.
At Brave Africa, we are doing our best to hang in there during the storm and make it out to the other side. Stay tuned as we update our website, keep sharing great content, and do what we can to keep you informed.
The coronavirus is causing a ton of uncertainty right now. Reading just a few news stories is enough to make you think that the world will never be the same and that once-in-a-lifetime safaris in 2021 will only ever be a dream. And it’s true that the travel and tourism industries have been severely and negatively impacted by COVID-19, but don’t count us out. In 2021, Brave Africa will still be around.
We know a lot of people are hesitating to plan or even think about their vacation in 2021. Which airlines, hotels, and tour operators will still be around next year? Already, 50 million jobs in the global travel sector are at risk, some airlines could go bankrupt, and hotels are asking for bailouts.
But Brave Africa still be around to take you on an African safari in the future. We won’t be another casualty of the coronavirus pandemic.
Brave Africa Will Outlast This Pandemic!
Obviously, we cannot predict the future with certainty or guarantee anything, but being debt-free and having adequate cash reserves puts Brave Africa in the best position possible to survive this unprecedented impact to travel and tourism. We are at low risk of going bankrupt even if there are no more safari-goers for the remaining nine months of 2020, and we are confident that Brave Africa will still be here to host once-in-a-lifetime safaris in 2021 and beyond.
Although we are a brand-new operator, Brave Africa is in solid financial health and we have the knowledge, experience, and foundation to outlast the pandemic. Out of all of the scenarios tour operators and lodges can find themselves in during these unpredictable times, Brave Africa is as set for success as we can be.
We’re looking ahead to 2021, and the future looks bright. We will get through this together.
Brave Africa is Debt-Free
First and foremost, Brave Africa has no debt. Unlike many other hospitality operators, we have no expensive construction loans, commercial mortgages, private land leases, automobile loans, or other major liabilities that we would be obligated to pay in spite of reduced revenues.
In addition, most of our operating expenses are only incurred if we have paying customers. For example, as a mobile lodge, we benefit from the fact that we only pay for campsites when they are in use. We also only purchase food and other safari supplies shortly before each scheduled adventure, so there is no product waste or inventory spoilage that we have to worry about.
When we are not running safaris, are only expenses are staff payroll, business insurance, and a small office rent. This means that we have enough cash reserves to remain in business for the next 12 months even without any incoming revenue.
The Brave Africa team is also composed of experienced executives and investors who have knowledge weathering tough financial storms.
One of our owners has a background in accounting as well as running a successful software company in the United States. He has been able to guide our team down the right path to ensure that Brave Africa remains financially solvent in spite of any turbulence in the safari industry.
As for our financial backers, they are highly invested in Brave Africa’s success. They believe in our vision and business. If required, they are willing to put additional investment into the company to continue operations for the foreseeable future.
We ask that everyone stay safe, and when we get to the other side, know that in 2021, Brave Africa will be here and ready to take you on an unforgettable trip!
For now, for as long as physical distancing, self-quarantining, and travel restrictions last, we will continue to bring the African bush to you! Check out our Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube accounts to escape for a moment (our next blog will explain exactly what we’re doing).
The past two months have been hectic at Brave Africa safari. After our first official safari launch in September, our team hasn’t had a moment to relax. Instead, we’ve focused on building deeper relationships throughout the safari and travel industry, including attending BTTE (Botswana Travel & Tourism Expo).
The great news is that we have an incredible team of individuals who have worked tirelessly to make this possible. They’ve given 1000% of themselves to meet new people, rekindle existing relationships, and introduce Brave Africa as the new ultra-luxury mobile safari to book in 2020 and beyond.
Here’s a little bit about what we’ve been up to during this exciting time behind the scenes with Brave Africa safari.
Giving Back to the Community
Brave Africa’s guides, Wina and Moses, dropping off food items to Safari Destinations.
In November, we had the opportunity to start giving back to the Botswana community. This is a huge piece of who we are and what we believe in. We do not want to be just another safari focused on making money and moving tourists in and out of the country. We want to make a difference not only for the wildlife but also for the Botswanan people.
We plan to do this moving forward by donating $5 a day from every guest’s trip with us to various conservation and community charities. Our team is currently doing extensive research to find the best non-profits to give to, and we’ll have that list available soon. However, we already had the opportunity to help the elderly population in Maun, and we’re so glad we got to participate.
Safari Destinations, one of Botswana’s premier travel agencies, held an annual charity drive to collect needed items for older individuals within the Maun community who require assistance. Our team got together and purchased massive bags of food goods to do our part.
For our Brave Africa safari staff—all of whom are Botswanan natives—taking care of your elders is the responsibility of the community. They shared with us funny stories of being kids and being charged with walking to the store for an elder to purchase their groceries, whether they were related to the individual or knew the individual well or not. Participating in this charity event made a lot of sense and was special to our team.
A Trip to Victoria Falls
Tabona Wina (left) and Moses Teko (right)
The following week in November, our team headed up to Zimbabwe and Victoria Falls to meet with travel agencies throughout the area and start building relationships. This trip was made possible thanks to Shelley Cox at Africa Conservation Travel.
Shelley has been an integral piece of Brave Africa safari since the very beginning. She is a good friend of our owner, Tabona Wina, and has offered our team priceless guidance. We are beyond grateful to her and her company.
Thanks to Shelley’s connections and the hard work of our team, we were able to introduce Brave Africa to other members of the safari industry. We loved getting to share our mission and vision and to tell our story to travel agencies who will help us connect with guests who share our values from around the world.
Building this base of support is critical to our eventual success and helping safari-goers discover us.
Finally, we kicked December off with a bang with Botswana’s largest travel and tourism expo: BTTE. This unique, annual event offers an opportunity for the greater European travel industry to establish relationships and business partnerships with Botswana’s tourism industry. Every safari company, travel agency, and tour operator in Botswana attends this networking event, and we were thrilled to take part!
Held December 2rd – December 6th, in Kasane, #BTTE19 was the event of the year. Over 280 exhibitors, including 140 local operators and 140 international operators from 33 countries around the world participated. Attendees came from all over, including Argentina, United Arab Emirates, Israel, and throughout Europe.
For Brave Africa safari, BTTE was an opportunity to set up a booth where attendees could come up to learn more about who we are and what we offer. We also had a table for a “Business 2 Business” event where attendees had just 15 minutes to meet our team and get to know our product before they moved on. This was an inspiring, educational, and super productive session, where we established many strategic relationships.
Wina & Moses during the brief Business 2 Business sessions
The week-long event included presentations from experts on the Botswana tourism industry as well as the different unique areas of Botswana. There were meet-and-greet sessions, workshops, cocktail dinners, and more. It was an exhausting week, but BTTE was a fantastic opportunity for Brave Africa to establish that we are here as part of the community and proud of it.
Next Up for Brave Africa Safari
In a week, our team will be heading out into the Botswana Bush to explore a possible new Brave Africa safari itinerary—the Kalahari Desert.
This southern route will possibly be available to guests during the rainy season (December – March) when the Okavango Delta is flooded and difficult to navigate. During these months, the Kalahari is in peak season because animals are leaving the floodplains for more semi-arid regions.
On September 1, 2019, Brave Africa embarked on our inaugural safari. It was an incredible nine days in the bush that gave us a little bit of everything. We had a fantastic time at camp, had many once-in-a-lifetime animal sightings, and have memories that will last a lifetime. However, we also had a few things that went wrong, as every startup does.
Here’s our Botswana safari review for our first trip out. (more…)
We have a lot going on, but we wanted to give you the latest update on everything that’s happening at Brave Africa. We’re so excited about everything that’s happening as we get ready for our official Brave Africa launch with our first 10-day/9-night Botswana safari on August 30, 2019!
We’re Crazy Busy
Honestly, there’s not much more that needs to be said. We’re in the final few weeks of getting our safari up and running, and that means we’re running around like crazy and trying to get everything together.
Of course, as with any business, few things go to plan. Instead, you have to roll with a thousand little punches and make things work the best that you can. You also have to realize that there is only so much that you can control. Sometimes, you just have to cross your fingers and hope for the best.
Our U.S. Team Flew to Botswana for Safari Prep
In flight to Maun, Botswana. Here we go!
First and foremost, is the fact that our U.S.-based team flew out to Botswana to meet up with Wina and work on Brave Africa on location. Both our teams have been in near-constant communication over the last few months, but there is something to be said about meeting up in-person, and that’s what this week is about.
Our team flew out of Denver at 4:00 pm on Friday, June 28. Nine hours later—at 10 am local time—they landed in Munich, Germany for a short two-hour layover before taking a one-hour hopper flight to Frankfurt. Then, they had around nine hours in Frankfurt to run around before taking the 10:30 pm flight (local) to Johannesburg.
Running around Frankfurt, Germany for a few hours during our layover.
Pushing 5 bags and 1 giant box up an escalator in Joburg airport.
Twelve hours later, they arrived in Joburg at 9:00 am (local). They then had three hours to check out their luggage and recheck it back in for their two-hour flight to Maun, Botswana. They made it just in time, with only a small amount of airport drama (four gate changes and 4 miles of walking through the airport).
Thirty-six hours of travel later, Wina picked the team up at Maun International Airport in our completed Land Cruiser. And it was worth every second. Check out a little bit about how we made it to Maun on our Getting Here page.
LC 1 and LC 2
LC 1 and LC 2, as we affectionately refer to our two Toyota Land Cruisers, were crazy to see in real life. LC 1 is almost completely done and ready for customers. She’s a beauty! The garage did an amazing job transforming her into a comfortable safari vehicle, and she’s better than we could have imagined.
There are even a few unexpected features that we think we adventure guests are going to love!
Each row will have two USB ports (one per person) to use while out on safari! So if there’s a charging emergency or you’re draining a battery faster than expected, you won’t have to panic. This is a feature typically only available in photography vehicles, but we’re including it in all of ours.
We also have a cooler in the front row. This battery-powered cooler will keep your drinks and snacks ice-cold while out on your all-day game drives. The cooler is large enough to easily hold water, beer, soda, juice, and even white wine during your game drives.
A luggage rack in the back makes air strip pick up super simple. We’ll strap your bags down on the back of the Land Cruiser, covering them securely with a tarp, and keep your bags safe as we go out on your afternoon safari drive before heading back to camp for dinner. This means you won’t miss a minute of your safari to drop off luggage at camp.
There’s so much more to talk about when it comes to our Land Cruisers. For now, enjoy some pictures of LC1 and LC2.
Heres LC1 ready for game drives!
LC1 VS LC2 (in white). Just 12 weeks in the shop separate these two vehicles.
We made LC1 official by adding our logo right before our first game drive!
Between the first two seats, we added a cooler for ice-cold drinks and food on every game drive.
4 USB ports per row in our safari game drive vehicles.
Shopping and Item Delivery for our Botswana Safari
One of the most important things that happened during this trip was that we got everything we needed for camp. Wednesday morning (July 3), our huge shipment from South Africa arrived at the office. We received all the tents along with power, lamps, furniture, cooking supplies, and more. Basically, everything we need to create a comfortable, luxurious, and amazing adventure safari experience. Thanks, Livingstone Supply Co.
However, some of the small details we purchased in Botswana. When we decorate your tents, we want items from local artisans, which is why we hired a bushman based in Maun to create the wooden kists, wooden shower platform, and toilet platform. We love that these items were crafted by a local and we think he did an amazing job. You can check out pictures of our camp on our updated Your Camp page.
Special delivery of all our camp supplies! It was a long day but well worth the time and heat.
First Time Out
At the end of the week, Brave Africa embarked on our first Botswana safari in Khwai. A team-only trip, we tested out all of our supplies to ensure that the Brave Africa safari experience is exactly what we want for our guests. It was the first time we set up a guest tent in the bush, our main tent, and took LC1 out on a short, two-hour game drive. We were in the bush for less than 24 hours in the end, but boy did we get a lot done in that time. We also had some incredible encounters with wildlife in just that short trip, which was a great reminder of why we are doing all of this and why Brave Africa is such a magical experience. We’ll talk about our game drive in the next blog.
For now, check out these camp photos!
Our team setting up our very first guest tent in the Khwai bush. Look at that view!